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New UN Doctrine Invoked in Libyan Conflict

Voice of America
André de Nesnera
16 March 2011

The U.N. doctrine known as the "responsibility to protect" is a relatively new concept.

Jared Genser, a lawyer who has edited a book on the subject, explains.

"It is a doctrine that was adopted by the U.N. World Summit in 2005 that says that all states have an obligation to protect their own citizens from the commission of mass atrocities against its population - and that, of course, includes not actually committing those atrocities and specifically, the atrocities described include genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing," Jared said.


On February 15, protests broke out in Libya against the rule of Colonel Moammar Gadhafi. He responded with massive force, even using air force planes to attack civilians.

Eleven days later, in what experts such as Genser describe as record time, the U.N. Security Council invoked the "responsibility to protect" and set out tough measures against the Gadhafi government.

"The Security Council resolution that was [unanimously] adopted puts in place banking and financial sanctions against Moammar Gadhafi and his cronies [close friends]," said Genser. "It also puts in place an arms embargo on the country itself, making it harder for them to purchase weapons. And it even referred the case to the International Criminal Court for investigation of potential crimes against humanity and war crimes."


Many experts say that while the current U.N. resolution citing the "responsibility to protect" is strong, it does not go far enough. Some analysts - such as Jared Genser - say a new resolution is needed, calling for an internationally-administered no-fly zone. But others - such as Fred Abraham - believe there will be no international consensus on the issue unless Russia and China, opposed to a no-fly zone, change their minds. Both are permanent members of the Security Council and have the right to veto any Council resolution.


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